Australian musicians Thembi Soddell and Anthea Caddy effectively give us a good dose of music from the bughouse on their Host (ROOM 40 RM448) CD. Through clashing atonal cello music with ghastly stabs from a keyboard sampler, they bounce acoustical mayhem off the walls of our padded cell, inviting the blindfolded ear to guess at the shapes that are force-fed through our respective feeding tubes. To increase the sense of apprehension, the musical attack lacks any sense of continuity, and the information is spewed outwards randomly, in horrid fragmentary bursts that don’t fit together. Any patient forced to endure this cruel and unusual treatment will be a candidate for the rubber room in short order. Three long tracks of this mental torture are available on a CD whose almost-blank packaging contains basic geometric shapes to further confuse the mind of the mentally ill as they are unwillingly engaged in vicious parodies of a psycho-geometric test. The second track not only has the best title – ‘A Shut In Place’, highly vivid description of a mental ward – but is also the most ominous music on the set, easily rivalling most sick industrial drones from the 1980s that used to rattle on about depravity and decay like kids playing in a trash-heap. Thankfully this bleak vision lasts only 8 minutes but it feels like an eternity to the prisoner, condemned to writhe in their straitjackets and beat head against bars in futile manner. One of the most effective “bedlam” music records I’ve heard, and I’ve heard ’em all. From 11 April 2012.
Now for a good ocean-going record. This powerful maritime theme has been used by every musician from Benjamin Britten to Charles Hayward of This Heat, and more recently Isis. To be accurate Leaving Ocean For Land (DEBACLE RECORDS DBL075) is not exclusively set on the brine and is more of a transitory piece, depicting a nameless odyssey of doomed sea-dogs returning to the mainland with their scratchy beards and a poisoned cargo stowed in the hold. The suite is realised in seven parts by two important American doom-noise mystery merchants, Vertonen and At Jennie Richie. The former is Blake Edwards and has drilled inroads into the minds of many with his disturbing electric gougers, often released on his own Crippled Intellect Productions label. The latter act we have never been able to identify for certain, so reclusive is their identity, although their name is taken from the works of Outsider artist Henry Darger. On this joint work, the melded tones of queasy, nauseating electronic sludge are sewn together like eighteen rats in a seaman’s canvas bag. The slow glorp exudes a motion exactly like the swell of the waves on a sluggish Sargasso sea. Lurking in the mix are creepy disguised voices, murmuring unintelligible groans, rescued radio broadcasts from wracks and disasters. The seven parts segue into a compellingly nightmarish trip lasting 46 minutes, passing on the effect of being drawn slowly into an enormous maelstrom, or cataract. The evocative cover photographs depict a grim forgotten hulk ground ashore and encrusted with barnacles. The voyage did not prosper, methinks. From 17 April 2012.
For those who like a suggestive narrative undercurrent to their abstract music, you could do no better than bending an ear to In The Library of Dreams (POGUS PRODUCTIONS POGUS 21064-2) by Frances White. The album showcases six pieces of very delicate music by this award-winning American composer who has also been featured on soundtracks to Gus Van Sant films. The works have been realised by guest musicians, such as the string players David Cerutti and Liuh-Wen Ting, the flautist Ralph Samuelson, and the chamber ensemble Eighth Blackbird. Small and mysterious sounds are one of her specialities, as shown on the two electronic pieces ‘Walk Through Resonant Landscape’ 5.1 and 5.2; they are simulated virtual worlds, replete with replicants of birdsong and insects, synthesised in a way that matches Pauline Oliveros and her Alien Bog. ‘The Ocean Inside’, scored for a small ensemble and using conventional acoustic instruments, is more romantic and melodic; but the same degree of attention is paid to tiny details, expressed in percussion and delicate woodwind-piano passages. The title track is the most evocative, both in its Surrealist title and loving execution, and Cerutti’s full-bodied work on the viola da gamba here is an apt soundtrack for wandering around the attic of the mind, a melancholy reminisce about clutching at near-lost memories. No post-modernist she, White is not afraid to imbue her work with meaning. From 17 April 2012.
Argentinian saxophonist Lucio Capece continues his explorations into long-form music on Zero Plus Zero (POTLATCH P112), on which four of the tracks are quite extensive (between 15-20 minutes) investigations into sound-generation. He does it by making unusual electro-acoustic interpolations between him and his instrument, for example the ring modulator, equalizers, cassettes, and applied objects; and ingenious use is made of cardboard tubes as well. That said, woodwinds only actually feature on two tracks here, the remainder being executed with the sruti box or by purely electronic means, such as sine waves or equalizers being fed through cardboard tubes. It’s a rather process-heavy album and sometimes I wonder whether the long durations are justified, but ‘Inside the Outside I’ is a truly heavy magnetized hum that could hypnotise a bucket of sand into thinking it was the Sahara desert, while its sister track ‘Inside the Outside II’ is an implacable throbbing beast, whose electronic pulsations move in and out of phase to suggest a vast reservoir of power. It is well that Capece has all this power at his disposal, but I’d also like to hear him do something a little more constructive with it than simply present this very static music. From 2nd April 2012.
We last heard from the London micro-label Foredoom Productions in May 2011 with four fine cassettes of abstract noise. This odd mini-CD is called -1 (FOREDOOM FD008) and is credited to VA AA LR, in fact the trio of Vasco Alves, Adam Asnan, and Louie Rice. The main event is eleven minutes of extremely puzzling digital noise, often very minimal and fugitive with lots of dropouts and empty segments, prompting the sort of “where-is-it” exasperation I normally experience when chasing the flies out of my bedroom. Gradually it turns into a highly abstracted digital glitch which has been rendered down into a strange pile of rubble. There’s a bonus track which delivers three more minutes in the same rubbly vein. Given how little actual content or variation there is on here, I’m inclined to wonder why it took three people to produce it. I would tend to characterise it as a slightly more refined version of the kind of intense digital mayhem we find on the label Copy For Your Records, only more approachable. The original release has sold out now, but most of it has been published on Soundcloud, along with more of their studio work. Received 10 April 2012.